Issue 8-2 January 9, 2014

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

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 In This Issue

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Soul Blues legend Otis Clay.

We have seven Blues music reviews for you. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD by Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD from Erwin Helfer. Marty Gunther reviews an album from Willie And The Dixons. Rhys Williams reviews a new release by Little Mike & The Tornadoes. John Mitchell reviews a new album from Eugene Hideaway Bridges. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new release from Sugar Daddy Blues Band. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Charlie Musselwhite. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Featured Blues review – 1 of 7

Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King – Road Dog’s Life

Delta Groove Music

CD: 12 songs; 48:20 Minutes

Styles: Texas Blues, Traditional Electric Blues

2014 is the 25th anniversary of a perennial blues partnership: Texan Smokin’ Joe Kubek (leader and guitar) and Bnois King (guitar and all vocals). Since 1989, these two have very successfully combined their signature styles on fourteen other albums. What better way to celebrate this feat than with their blazing new CD, “Road Dog’s Life”? Even though it was released in 2013, there’s no better way to beat the New Year’s winter blues than to fire up these twelve selections. Ten are originals, and two are covers of songs by the world’s most famous rock groups: “Don’t Bother Me” by the Beatles and “Playing with Fire” by the Rolling Stones. Even though these two bands are international household names, road veterans Kubek and King certainly are, in the homes and hearts of blues aficionados.

What is it about them that makes them as memorable as one’s last taste of hot sauce? Is it their gritty guitar prowess, their lyrical genius, or their chemistry as a performing duo? This reviewer’s answer is “all of the above,” especially when they’re joined by renowned guest artists. Featured here are guitarist Kid Andersen, producer Randy Chortkoff and Kim Wilson on harmonica and vocals, Willie J. Campbell and Patrick Recob on electric bass, and drummer Jimi Bott. Their best efforts are these three songs, infused with the pure essence of Texas blues:

Track 01: “Big Money Sonny” – ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ can’t compare to the title character of this story: a gambler who’s so paranoid that he drives all his money around. It’s “in the trunk of his car, ‘cause he didn’t trust no bank. You know, the IRS; they would have got him, don’t you think?” “Big Money Sonny” walks a fine line between criticizing and glamorizing his actions. Let the bettor beware, but guitar fans rejoice – especially during the fast-fingered-deal solo in the middle.

Track 04: “Road Dog’s Life” – With a growling hard-rock intro, Smokin’ Joe launches into an autobiographical tale: “Everybody drinks; it’s all glitz and glory. Twelve hours on the bus? That’s another story.” Audiences may love shows, coming back for more like kids to candy, but they don’t often see the grungier aspects of a “Road Dog’s Life.” Still, Kubek and King “wouldn’t have it any other way.” Their blues passion is worth the pain.

Track 05: “K9 Blues” – Like a hound dog with its tail between its legs, our narrator here is being busted by his fiancée for ‘sniffing around’ other women: “Did she just call me a dog? Am I losing my mind? I think she just called me a canine – I mean the worst kind!” While King begs, Kim Wilson’s harmonica does the howling. This song could have been the title track, because it possesses the perfect balance of humor, catchiness and raw instrumentation.

“A Road Dog’s Life” may be difficult, but as this album proves, it has its rewards!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 34 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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 Featured Blues Interview – Otis Clay

When it comes to deep soul, there’s no argument that Otis Clay is king. Along with Otis Redding, Tyrone Davis, Wilson Pickett, Johnnie Taylor and Sam and Dave, he helped shape the sound of the New Generation in the ’60s with his incendiary, soul-wrenching, horn-filled, gospel-tinged performance.

Today, at 71, the West Side Chicago legend steadfastly carries the torch, delivering the music to a new audience long after most of his early contemporaries met their reward. He was inducted into the Blues Music Hall Of Fame last spring and was recently nominated in two categories for the 2014 Blues Music Awards, but he doesn’t show the slightest sign of slowing down.

Whenever Clay takes the stage, angels stop to listen. He’s equal parts grit, growl and heavenly joy, seamlessly melding the worlds of blues and gospel into one with a hint of other musical styles thrown in for good measure. Other folks do the same, but Otis has built a huge following on both the secular and spiritual sides of the street. His soul releases have been frequent, consistently fresh and well-received, and one gospel album in particular still is a consistent seller 20 years after it hit the streets.

It’s no surprise that he can juggle both worlds so well when you consider his upbringing. Many artists born when he was were frowned upon by members of “proper” society for choosing a path in the blues, but the duality is his birthright. The youngest of ten children, he’s the son of Anthony and Elizabeth Clay, and came into the world on Feb. 11, 1942, in rural Waxhaw, not far from the river in northwest Mississippi.

“There really was only one type of music in the house,” Otis remembers, “and that was gospel. But my father now, he was a farmer; he was a renter; and an entrepreneur. He had a juke joint, and in the back room, you know what they was a-doin’…he was gamblin’ and all that stuff. My mother was a church lady. But in the house, whatever my mother said, that was the law.

“You had the perfect balance there, you know…devil or angel…and I had the choice.”

Mom made him go to church every Sunday. It served his soul while also serving as the true center of the community. “We would go to church on Sunday, and play ‘church’ the rest of the week,” he says. “We’d imitate the preacher, and if there was singin’ goin’ on, imitate the song. That was going on as far back as I can remember.”

Clay got interested in music early, playing both guitar and drums. There were several vocalists in the family, and their home often served as a rehearsal studio. “We would sit there and watch ’em,” he recalls. “When the rehearsal was over, we would always try to imitate them. That’s how it all started.”

And secular music entered the home via the radio.

“At noon, we listened to Sonny Boy Williamson, coming out of Helena, Ark.,” Clay says. “Every Saturday night, it was the Grand Ole Opry.” Among his early favorites were country superstars Hank Williams and Roy Acuff, as well as mainstream artists, including Rosemary Clooney and Vaughan Monroe.

By the time Otis was a teenager, he’d already served stints in two gospel groups, the Voices Of Hope in Muncie, Ind., where the family moved briefly, and the Christian Travellers back home in Mississippi. At age 16, he settled in Chicago and began singing professionally with the Golden Jubilaires. By the late ’50s, he was a member of Charles Bridges’ Famous Blue Jay Singers, who toured the East Coast extensively. For Clay, they were a perfect fit. “We were like variety singers, jubilee singers,” he says. Created first at Fisk University, jubilee singers generally were a group of males who sang traditional black spirituals along with secular harmony music.

“We’d work all week goin’ to schools, and hotels and things like that, and on Sunday, we’d find a church. My exposure to a white audience goes back to 1960 with my experience with the Blue Jays.” Their weekday repertoire appealed to the masses and included standards like “That Old Gang Of Mine” and “Mother Machree” as well as covers of current hits like “The Twist.”

Clay tried to follow the path of Sam Cooke, who had made the jump from singing gospel with the Soul Stirrers to a solo secular career. In 1962 he hooked up with Columbia Records at the same time as another Chicagoan, Major Lance. Soon after, Lance had a major hit on his hands with “Monkey Time.” Sadly, however, Otis’ recorded four sides never saw the light of day.

His first vinyl pressing turned out to be “Let Jesus Lead You” two years later while singing lead with the Gospel Songbirds, a group that included Maurice Dollison Jr., who later became better known amongst blues aficionados as guitarist Cash McCall. The two men worked in several spiritual ensembles together, and he gave Clay the nudge he needed when he finally launched a solo secular career.

It happened when McCall went into the studio for George Leaner at One-derful! Records, Otis joined him, quickly earning himself a contract with the label. “It wound up like goin’ home,” Clay says, “because George would sit down and talk to me about things. It was like dealing with your father, really.”

Leaner released Clay’s searing ballad, “Flame In Your Heart,” in 1965, followed in quick succession by the gospel-flavored “I Testify” and the classic bass-driven burner, “Easier Said Than Done,” in which the singer is torn between his unforgettable love for a lady and the realization that the relationship was destroyed by her lies. Several other minor successes followed, but Otis’ first major national hit came in 1967.

“That’s How It Is (When You’re In Love)” followed. Written by McCall, it ended up among the Top 30 on the Billboard R&B charts, followed closely by another hit, “A Lasting Love,” backed by a cover of the Harold Burrage classic, “Got To Find A Way.” Otis and Burrage were both West Side Chicago residents and close friends, and Clay recorded the tune as a tribute after Burrage died the year before.

But Otis’ stay at One-derful! was about to end. Leaner decided to close the business. It’s possible he was a visionary who saw hard times ahead. The civil unrest of the lat ’60s was approaching fast, and would bring the popularity of black music in America to a screeching halt.

But before he did, Lerner secured Clay a spot with Atlantic Records’ Cottilion label. “George was always going to look out for me,” Otis recalls.

The move proved a blessing. Instead of recording in the Windy City, Clay quickly found himself at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., where everyone from Arthur Alexander (“You Better Move On”) to Jimmy Hughes (“Steal Away”) to Mac Davis (“Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me”) and the Osmonds (“One Bad Apple”) laid down tracks, joined by a who’s who of folks in the music business, including Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and more.

His first release – the first ever on the Cotillion imprint in 1968 ­– was a soul-sanctified cover of “She’s About A Mover,” the 1965 hit for the Sir Douglas Quintet. Written by Doug Sahm and considered by some critics to be the best song ever written in the Lone Star State, it was a hit. Four more singles followed, including “Hard Working Woman,” under the direction of Chicago soul-blues legend Syl Johnson, and “Is It Over?,” produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell.

Based in Memphis, Mitchell was the most important producer and arranger of his time, working with the Hi label, and recording Johnson, O.V. Wright and Al Green. Otis met him through Pervis Spann. More than 50 years later, Clay still can’t pin down the role Spann played in his life. He was an important player in the Chicago music scene as disc jockey on WVON, the radio station owned by the Chess brothers. To Clay, the Blues Hall Of Famer was a mentor, good friend and part-time manager, too.

Mitchell was moonlighting from Hi when he and Otis met. That was a common occurrence back then. “Willie was doin’ a lot of production projects,” Clay says. “He was having success with a lot of folks. He had a million-seller with Denise LaSalle. That’s the way the industry was at the time…if somebody was havin’ success, everybody was going that way.”

By 1971, however, Otis and Willie were joined at the hip. “Things started burnin’ up,” he says.

Clay left Cotillion and moved to Hi, and the relationship proved magical. It began with the beautiful “Home Is Where The Heart Is,” followed by a cover of “Precious, Precious.” The song had been a smash for female vocalist Jackie Moore about a year earlier, but Spann, who loved it, insisted it needed a man’s touch. As usual, he was right.

As good as those tunes proved to be, however, nothing could top “Trying To Live My Life Without You,” penned by Eugene Williams. After a long day in the studio working with Otis on other material, Mitchell heard George Jackson playing it on the studio piano. He liked it so much that he went straight to the telephone and called Clay in the middle of the night to get him to listen to it. Otis’ version of the song climbed to No. 24 on the R&B charts in 1972 and earned him an appearance on Soul Train. That performance still lives today on YouTube. And subsequent versions laid down by Bob Segar and the J. Geils Band climbed as high as No. 5 on the pop charts. The song also provided the title track for his first secular LP.

One more soul hit, “I Didn’t Know The Meaning Of Pain,” followed before another Jackson composition changed Clay’s life dramatically. “If I Could Reach Out (And Help Somebody” was a heartfelt appeal for more love and cooperation in the world, an end to hunger and poverty. The spiritually uplifting message made the artist reevaluate his life. “When that song came out, I said: ‘Wow! I can’t do what I’ve been doing,’” he says. “I’m going to have to go in another direction.”

Not only did the song lead him back to gospel, but it also fueled his strong social conscience.

More successes followed for a succession of labels, including Kayvette, Bullseye Blues, Blind Pig and his own imprint, Echo, with Clay interspersing secular material with the divine.

The world literally opened for him in the late ’70s when he traveled to Japan for the first time. He had strong reservations about the trip, with Pearl Harbor and World War II still strong in his mind. What he found when he got there totally shocked him.

“They were up on my music,” he says. “They knew the songs and knew what they meant.” He’s been a superstar there ever since, and his 1983 album Soul Man: Live In Japan, recorded for Bullseye at the famed Budokan Arena in Tokyo, has proven to be one of the most seminal of all soul-blues recordings.

“We’ll take it anywhere we can get it,” Otis chuckles. “But we never reached that thing where we wanted it in America.”

He’s a favorite in Europe, too, as evidenced by a pair of CDs recorded live in Lucerne, Switzerland, and overseas success fueled a revival of interest in his career back home.

Between new releases and reissues of his early material, Clay has produced a long list of CDs in the past 30 years, including gospel albums The Gospel Truth, released in 1993, remains a best-seller.

But Otis refuses to pause for even a deep breath.

2013 proved to be a banner year for him. Not only was he enshrined in the Blues Music Hall Of Fame, but he’s also earned nominations for the upcoming Blues Music Awards as Soul Blues Male Artist Of The Year and Soul Blues Album Of The Year for his Truth Is release. That disc is competing with an O.V. Wright tribute CD he also was involved in. Clay’s vocal power assists Johnny Rawls on three tunes on the recording, entitled Remembering O.V.

Oh, yes, and another Clay release recently hit store shelves. Trying To Live My Life Without You is a brand-new CD that came about as the result of Otis work on the new documentary, Take Me To The River.

Directed by Martin Shore, who’s worked as a touring blues musician himself, it was filmed in Memphis, with much of the material recorded at Mitchell’s legendary Royal Studios under the direction of his son Boo, who co-produces the film. It deals with a long-standing tradition in the music scene: the mentorship of young artists by the musicians who’ve preceded them.

All of the senior tunesmiths in the film worked with members of the younger generation who grew up within 100 miles of the River City. Clay lent a hand with the Bo-Keys, the sensational eight-piece band whose members served time in the B.B. King Orchestra, the Hi Rhythm Section and with Otis Redding before going out on their own. The movie documents the production of their 2011 CD, Got To Get Back!

Otis’ music is featured in the soundtrack along with the works of Terrence Howard, Mavis Staples, Booker T. Jones, Bobby Rush, William Bell, Snoop Dogg, Frayser Boy, the North Mississippi Allstars, among others. And the work includes scenes from one of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s last recording sessions.

Away from the stage – and screen, Clay is deeply involved in a totally different form of mentoring.

No stranger to non-profit work, he toiled previously as chairman of the board of Tobacco Road, Inc., a group on Chicago’s South Side that helped redevelop the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, the traditional heart of black culture in the city. One of their successful endeavors was to revitalize the legendary Regal Theatre. Once one of the most important venues in music history, it had fallen into disrepair. The group turned it in to a cultural and education center with a state-of-the-art showroom that seats 1,100 people.

Today, he’s neck-deep in the work of People For A New Direction. Based on the West Side, where he makes his home, it’s composed of successful people from many professions who are trying striving to stem the tide of poverty, crime and violence at a grassroots level through local initiatives aimed at the younger generation. Sadly, many young folks are running directionless in the streets, he says, while their elders are living behind locked doors.

“We’re gearing up for 2014. We’re trying to provide scholarships and other things,” says Clay, who serves on the board of directors. “It’s so much needed nowadays, especially in the black community. There’s always a stereotype of what’s happening there.

“We’re trying to create an element to break that. We’re trying to pull together a community where older people are never behind closed doors. There’s not a generations gap, there’s a communications gap. And we’re out to change it.”

There’s one thing for sure: Otis Clay is a determined man. If anyone can help bring about change, he can. And he won’t tolerate anyone standing in the way. He’s got an unyielding will and powerful allies in this world and beyond.

If you want to see Otis in action, check out these videos.

Soultrain 1972
Germany 1995
Space in Evanston, IL 2011
Music Video with the Bo Keys 2011

Visit Otis’ website at:

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine.

Interviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

For other interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues review – 2 of 7

Erwin Helfer – Erwin Helfer Way

The Sirens Records


This Chicago piano legend has been on the scene for over forty years, playing with many of the blues greats. At one time he accompanied Mama Yancey, wife of the late great Jimmy Yancey. He has released albums on his own along with many collaborations. Along the way he has absorbed many piano styles and forged them together to create his own sound. This release finds him playing in various configurations: solo, trio and full band. He enlisted the services of two well-versed sax players-John Brumbach and Skinny Williams. What he has come up with is a joyful journey through Chicago and New Orleans piano stylings.

The CD leads off with the perennial “stage entrance” number “Chicken Shack”. We get a great version here with satisfying sax and piano breaks. The slow gospel flavored “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” evokes a New Orleans jazz funeral, although with just one sax. Erwin does up “The Fives” proudly in this boogie-woogie workout, a tune popularized by the great Cripple Clarence Lofton. “Within”, an original composition is a slow and brooding solo piano blues. On “Exactly Like You” he continues the New Orleans piano player tradition of doing up standards in New Orleans style, ala Professor Longhair. Erwin teams up with Barrelhouse Chuck for a two piano boogie-woogie romp on the original “E & C Boogie” to great effect.

There are two interpretations of the immortal Jelly Roll Morton’s tunes. On the slow and deliberate “Winin’ Boy” he is backed by drums and bass only. “Tin Roof Blues” feels like a leisurely stroll through the streets of New Orleans. John Brumbach’s sax playing here is “spot on”, not to mention Erwin’s deft piano technique.

The old “chestnut” “Sweet Georgia Brown” is awarded a loose and limber delivery, highlighted once again by Brumbach’s sax and piano by the master. Skinny Williams joins on sax to double the fun on the exuberant closer “The Preacher”.

There is much here for the piano, blues or New Orleans music fan. Erwin and company cover the gamut of piano blues from happy romps to slow introspective numbers. Every player here right down to the rhythm section is a seasoned pro.

The production by Steven B. Dollins keeps everything crisp and clear. This offering is a pleasant break from the usual guitar drenched blues that is so prevalent in today’s music. Give yourself the gift of a journey into piano blues heaven..

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

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 Featured Blues review – 3 of 7

Willie And The Dixons – Long Road To Longwood

Self-produced CD – NW001

10 songs – 36 minutes

Formed about four years ago in the town of Euroa in far southeastern Victoria, Australia, Willie And The Dixons are a seasoned group of blues warriors who deliver their music with a roadhouse feel.

Slide guitarist and powerful vocalist Neale “Willie” Williams assembled the trio with the former rhythm section of the late Dutch Tilders, who is considered the father of Australian blues. Peter Beulke (bass) departed before this album was recorded, replaced by Darryl Herring. And Rob O’Toole (drums) left soon after the sessions, replaced by Mick Donehue. But the band continues to drive home the beat as their traverse the continent.

Long Road To Longwood, their debut release, was produced by keyboardist Chris “Darkie” Wilson, who also lends his playing talent to the work. The album features four autobiographical originals along with five covers.

Williams kicks off the opener, “Spend Time With You,” on acoustic guitar as he croons about a love affair in which the lady doesn’t treat her man as an equal. In her busy life, she basically puts him on a shelf, ignoring him until she wants or needs him. It’s an interesting original, which is presented in an alternate take at the album’s end. In the end, it’s clear who runs the relationship because the man agrees to wait “until you call my number/I want to spend time with you.”

But don’t be misled: This is no collection of sappy love songs. From here on out, the band basically kicks into high gear, and it’s off to the races. Williams turns to an electric guitar for a loping version of Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied.” The Howlin’ Wolf chestnut, “Little Red Rooster,” follows with a more traditional feel, highlighted by Williams’ guitar and Wilson’s work on the 88s.

The pace slows briefly for the introduction to another original, “Widow Of The Blues.” But the pace quickens almost immediately as Williams recounts the words an ex-lover used when she threw him aside. The band then delivers an unusual uptempo version of the Leo Sayer pop hit, “Long Tall Glasses,” set up with a driving guitar line.

A pair of originals follow. The rhythm section kicks off “Why Would Ya?” It’s a plea for a simpler life free of redevelopment, air pollution and speeding traffic. “Long Road To Longwood” is a fast-paced memory of a trip south from Melbourne to the title town, located in the north of Victoria, during which the driver spends time trying to woo the woman at this side.

A faithful version of Hounddog Taylor’s “Give Me Back My Wig” precedes a cover of the Bobby Troupe classic, “Route 66.” It receives a new treatment with a guitar line that sounds straight out the Dire Straits songbook before the band delivers another interpretation of “Spending Time With You” to close.

Long Road To Longwood is a short, high-tempo presentation. Although Willie And The Dixons don’t cut much new ground with this work, they play well and definitely worth a listen. The short disc will leave you wanting more.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues review – 4 of 7

Little Mike & The Tornadoes – Forgive Me

ELROB Records

11 songs – 65 minutes

Little Michael Markowitz first exploded onto the international blues scene at the end of the 1980s, when he and his band, The Tornadoes, appeared on albums backing up the likes of Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin. They also released a series of albums of their own. So it comes as something of a shock to discover that the new album from Little Mike & The Tornadoes is their first since 2003’s How Long?

It isn’t entirely clear when this album was recorded. The (limited) liner notes claim a 2011 copyright, and the band’s website states it was released in 2001 (although I assume is a typo). Equally, however, there is a timeless quality to the music that means it could have been recorded at pretty much any time after the mid-1950s. It is not an album of surprises or novel musical interludes. Rather, it is the sort of good time party music one would hope to find blasting out of a local bar on a cold Friday night.

Opening with “Opelousas Rain”, an upbeat Elmore James-influenced instrumental, the band quickly hits its straps, with Troy Nahumko’s melodic guitar sparring with Sonny Rhodes’ always on-the-money lap steel. It is clear from the first couple of songs that this is an album of straight-ahead electric blues, heavily influenced by the classic Chicago sound.

The band is tight. Apart from Little Mike on vocals and harp and Nahumko on guitar, it also features Cam Robb on drums and Chris Brzezicki on bass. Jim McKaba guests on piano and Warren King also adds some lovely lyrical guitar to “Nuthin I Wouldn’t Do”. A number of songs also have uncredited horns. And Ace Moreland lends an excellent second voice to “Tell Me Baby”, which also features another spicy Rhodes slide solo.

Little Mike’s harmonica, as always, conveys the imprimatur of authenticity, whether backing up the playing of other or laying down some tasty solos, in particular on “Forgive Me Baby”. The bandleader also however provides Nahumko and the guest musicians plenty of room to stretch out themselves. Nahumko in particular plays some fine extended solos, not least on “Walked All The Way”, which also features some excellent piano from McKaba.

All 11 songs are written by the band: nine by Little Mike himself, together with two instrumentals by Nahumko. The album is well-produced by Markowitz, who captures a very natural “live” sound.

Little Mike & The Tornadoes proudly describe themselves as a “working class band” that plays blues with a rock ‘n roll edge, and that is a pretty apt description of this enjoyable album. It will appeal to fans of classic 1950s Chicago blues as well as those who like bands with a slightly broader musical palette, such as The Nighthawks.

Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another ten years for the next one.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

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 Featured Blues review – 5 of 7

Eugene Hideaway Bridges – Roots & Vines

Armadillo Music LTD

17 Tracks – 67 minutes

Eugene ‘Hideaway’ Bridges (his moniker is a tribute to his father Hideaway Slim) is a genuine triple threat: he sings like Sam Cooke, plays guitar like BB King and is a prolific writer. For anyone not acquainted with Eugene this is an interesting place to start. As he turned 50 Eugene decided to record an album that pays homage to his influences as well as recording some originals with personal meaning to him. Born in Louisiana, this occasional Houston TX resident is a blues nomad, spending most of his time travelling between shows across the world. He is already well known in Europe and Australia but is starting to gain recognition in his native USA, having received a number of BMA nominations in recent years. This CD contains thirteen originals and four interesting covers. This stripped down CD was recorded in Texas (as have several of Eugene’s previous albums), with producer Pat Manske providing percussion, Lloyd Maines pedal steel, David Webb and Clayton Dooley keyboards. Eugene plays all guitar and bass parts and Ellie Bluebird & The Hill Country Handclappers add to one track.

It is difficult to know where to start in covering this generously filled CD but the covers may prove instructive. The album opens with Eugene alone with his guitar singing the traditional “Glory, Glory” which he explains in the most helpful sleevenotes was his earliest musical memory as his father was a preacher and this was the first piece of music he learned to play. You can feel the gospel truth for real on this version as Eugene whoops, hollers and stomps along with his guitar! Sam Cooke is name checked in some of the songs here but “Farewell My Darling” is a song that Sam did once record and is played as a testimony to the man who invented soul. Less obvious is “They Call The Wind Mariah”, a song that Eugene says he plays in his head on the road, another solo piece. “Wayward Wind” is a country classic, recorded first in 1956 by Gogi Grant and covered many times but Eugene brings his soulful voice to bear on it, making the comparison with Sam Cooke again inevitable.

The originals cover a wide range of styles from solo acoustic to a few full band productions. “Hold On” is a typical Eugene song, a catchy refrain, lovely vocals and fine instrumentation, notably David Webb’s piano. “Rise Above It” adds Eugene’s distinctive guitar stylings to the mix as Eugene sings of the need to lift yourself up in times of adversity. Many of these songs are aimed at celebrating life and none does that better than Eugene’s tribute to “Basil’s Bar” in the Caribbean where the owner has for years put on blues festivals to raise money for local educational charities. Much of Eugene’s repertoire concerns love and “A Thing Called Love” probably sums up his approach to life and love, a gentle song with the organ underpinning Eugene’s BB King styled guitar – “Love is something in which I do believe. Got nothing to hide, pretty baby, got nothing up my sleeve.” In similar vein lyrically is “I Will Still Be In Love With You” on which the pedal steel weeps behind Eugene’s superb voice. Showing his versatility, Eugene also gives us his homage to “the best truck I’ve ever owned” in “Nelly Bell”, a suitably fast-paced song. “How Long Will It Take” was inspired by T-Bone Walker and Eugene’s guitar certainly gets that T-Bone feel here. “17 Miles To Go” is just Eugene acapella with a stomp board, singing in gospel style with beautiful harmony vocals behind him.

This ‘back to basics’ album is excellent but if this is your first encounter with Eugene’s music do search out some of his earlier albums such as Man Without A Home (2000), Coming Home (2005) and Live in San Antonio (2009) where you will find Eugene in the company of a full band with horns. Keep an eye on this wonderful artist and catch him if he is in your area; he is the real deal.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He had a blast at this year’s Blues Blast Awards and is already planning his next trip stateside.

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 Featured Blues review – 6 of 7

Sugar Daddy Blues Band – Somebody’s Watching You

Self Release

10 tracks / 32:40

Any blues fan that has ever gone to see a show at a club has had the opportunity to buy a copy of the band’s self-made CD, and in the real world the quality of these discs can vary greatly. Sugar Daddy Blues Band’s third release, Somebody’s Watching You, sounds like one of these self-produced projects, but it is definitely one of the better ones.

Sugar Daddy Blues Band is based out of Greenville, South Carolina and this trio includes John Hawkins on drums and harmonica, Warren Rollins on guitar and keyboards and Mike Lagerholm on bass, keyboards and guitars. Each member supplies lead and backing vocals, and their ability to switch instruments and vocal responsibilities is a tangible asset for the band. All three have been in the music business for over three decades, and their experience shines through on this effort.

If you do the math, you can figure out that with a run time of 32 minutes, none of the ten tracks on this album are very long. There are no writing credits available, but all of these songs appear to be originals. The CD kicks off with “Somebody’s Watching You,” a fast-paced blues rocker with wailing lead guitars. The backline is tight, and it is readily apparent that these three guys can really play. This song is an honest indicator of what the listener will get from this CD – straightforward blues rock that sounds like it was recorded live in the studio.

After the first track ends, the initial buzz of hearing something new fades a bit, but then the listener can start noticing the lyrics and song structure and it turns out that the Sugar Daddy Blues Band has some writing talent and a sense of humor too. “Things Just Ain’t What They Seem” is a dark rock song about a fellow who thinks his lady is stepping out on him, but the listener is left on his own to figure out why things are not as they appear to be. The slow smooth rocker “Dorian Grey” dramatizes the plot of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is certainly something you will not run into very much in the blues world (or any other musical world, actually).

The band changes things up a bit from track to track which keeps the album fresh throughout. “Sandman” is a sweet ballad that brings tasteful keyboard work and heavily processed lead guitars into the fray. “You Kissed Me Once” has a spaghetti western theme song sound with more than enough cowbell. A standout track is “Lightning in a Bottle” which is heavy and slow and has a catchy rhythm that uses a few different guitar tones and effects to arrive at a fun texture.

Though the songs come from a multitude of inspiration points, the vocals stay constant throughout. This is surprising as all members of the trio share vocal responsibilities, but they are somehow able to lay down the same smoky and growly inflections.

As this is a self-produced and recorded album it is not super-slick, with a mix that is too heavily weighted towards the bass and ride cymbal, abrupt song endings and background hiss to be found here and there. But it has a consistent tone and feel throughout and as such it comes off almost like a live show, which is a great way to find out what this band is all about.

Sugar Daddy Blues Band’s Somebody’s Watching You is a good CD that is full of well-written and catchy songs, so give it a listen if you get a chance. This trio is not afraid of hitting the studio, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with next!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at

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 Featured Blues review – 7 of 7

Charlie Musselwhite – Juke Joint Chapel

Henrietta Records

12 tracks

Stripped down, basic blues delivered live by one of the top harp players in the world. What is not to like here? Charlie is joined by Matt Stubbs on guitar, June Core on drums and with Mike Phillips playing bass an the four provide us some great blues done up right.

They open with a quintet of traditional blues songs that get the crowd whipped into a frenzy Eddie Taylor’s “Bad Boy,” Shakey Jake’ “Roll Your Money Maker,” Ton Joe White’s “As the Crow Flies,” Billy Boy Arnold’s “Gone Too Long” and Little Walter’s “It Aint Right” start us on a path of exciting blues. Charlie growls out on the opening track and lays down some heavy harp. But Stubbs big guitar solo is also right up there. He again is huge on “Money Maker,” another solid solo. Musselwhite and Stubbs trade solos beautifully back and forth on “Crow Flies,” taking us on a wild ride. The Billy Boy Arnold cut is also sweet and then they go for another wild ride on “It Ain’t Right”- wow!

The next five tracks are all Musselwhite songs. “Strange Land” throbs as Charlie lays out grit on vocals and then dirties it up some more on harp. Stubbs is more than ample in support, too. “Blues Overtook Me” takes it down a notch or so in tempo and Musselwhite blows some mean harp for us. “River Hip Mama” is a rollicking good time. Matthew trades off the solo from Charlie and it’s another hot cut to enjoy. “Blues Why Do You Worry Me?” follows and is another solid effort across the board. “Feel It In Your Heart” concludes the Musselwhite songs and Charlie croons to us about the feeling of music.

The band switches gears with “I’m Going Home;” Charlie howls out the vocals and then blows out a nice harp solo. Stubbs takes an extended solo and delivers the goods, too. Done in a syncopated “forro” style, it’s cool. They conclude with the somber Duke Pearson song “Christo Redentor.” I think the most ardent atheist might convert after Charlie’s ardent harp work here in this instrumental where Charlie’s harp testifies to a greater power. Inspired by the statue overlooking the Rio De Janiero harbor, Charlie’s signature song is so well done here that it made the hair on my arms stand up.

I repeat, what is there here not to like? Absolutely nothing! This is a great effort. I could say more, but let it suffice to say you need to get this CD. I close with some of Charlie’s words, “The blues sounded like how I felt growing up. Too many people think of the blues as sad, but I think many of these tunes will immediately dispel that notion, as they are fun, dancing tunes that lift your spirits. I often tell people that the blues is your buddy in good times and your comforter in bad times. It empowers you to keep going. It is secular spiritual music, the gospel blues. It’s music from the heart instead of the head.” Amen, Charlie.

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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 Blues Society News

Send your Blues Society’s BIG news or Press Release about your not-for-profit event with the subject line “Blues Society News” to:  

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Minnesota Blues Society – St. Paul, Mn

Road to Memphis Fundraiser Sunday, January 12, 2014 2:00 pm-7:00 pm at Whiskey Junction, 901 Cedar Ave., So Mpls, Mn. The Annie Mack Band and Tampa Spatz will be heading to Memphis to represent Minnesota at the 30th International Blues Challenge.

It is a tradition among the musicians who have made the journey in the past, to help the current performers raise money to off-set their travel expenses. This year, Papa John Kolstad, Hurricane Harold, Crankshaft, Kit Kildahl, Steve Vonderharr, Curtis Marlatt and the Kicks, and the “IBC All-Star Band” will donate their time and talent for this fundraising effort. Annie Mack Band and Tampa Spatz will also perform. More info:

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Jan. 13 – The Groove Daddies, Jan. 20 – Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers (winners of the Nebraska Blues Challenge), Jan. 27 – Robert Sampson & The Gumbo Band, Feb. 3 – South Side Jonny and Kicked to the Curb, Feb. 10 – The Dave Lumsden Factor, Feb. 17 – Anni Piper with Brent Johnson and the Call-up, Feb. 24 – Alex Jenkins & The Bombers,

Also on Feb. 9 there will be a special Blue Sunday with John Nemeth, Casey’s Pub in Springfielde, IL.

Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at or by visiting

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society is hosting a Send-Off Party for our IBC representative on Saturday January 11, 8:00pm – 12:30am at Memphis on Main, 55 E. Main St. Champaign, IL. The party features the winners of both our IBC Challenge and our Best Self-Produced CD competition. Benny Jenkins bloodline won our BSPCD contest and opens the show at 8:00. Back Pack Jones, our IBC representative headlines the show at 9:30.

Back Pack Jones is a Springfield IL based blues band which is complimented by a five piece horn section that is sure to blow your socks off. Their recently released CD “Betsy’s Kitchen” is packed full of outstanding tunes. Benny Jenkins bloodline combines roots, blues and rockabilly and their CD “Can’t Take The Blues” has advanced to the Semi-Finals of the Blues Foundation’s BSPCD competition. We’ll have raffles and door prizes as part of the fun. Cover is only $5. For more info:

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